Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

13 JULY, 2009

Digital Choreography: Synchronous Objects

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Twenty desks, one python, and what the human body has to do with lines of code.

Motion is a thing of beauty. Think about dance choreography — the human body in motion. Or the best stop-motion animation — pixels in motion. Naturally, the convergence of the two — choreography and digital motion — would be a magnificent thing.

Enter Synchronous Objects — a collaboration between German choreographer William Forsythe and Ohio State University Dance & Technology director Norah Zuniga Shaw.

The film plays off of the famed Forsythe piece One Flat Thing, Reproduced, using digital technology in a way that lets motion inform choreography. The project embodies the cross-pollination of ideas from different fields — dance, software, technology, sound design, motion graphics.

With this project, we seek to construct a new way of looking at dance, one that considers both discipline specific and cross-disciplinary ways of seeing.


Although this version of the film was done in Adobe Flash, upcoming work is experimenting with Field — a rich new open-source authoring environment built on Java and Jython (Python on the Java VM), designed for use in digital movement and visual expression. Field was conceived in — where else — the MIT Media Lab and has been used for anything from choreographic sequences to HD motion graphics installations.

Synchronous Objects and the technologies that inform it present a brave new frontier for motion arts, a future where human and algorithm come together to orchestrate beauty.

We highly recommend watching Synchronous Objects with headphones on — the sound effects alone are a piece of magic, adding a whole new layer to the already superb visual experience.

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02 JULY, 2009

Revolutionary Fringe-Think: Sputnik Observatory

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Why big minds play in small spaces, or what bacteria and architecture have in common.

We love Jonathan Harris. And his latest project is nothing short of brilliant.

Two years in the making, Sputnik is an “observatory for the study of contemporary culture” — an effort to document, catalog, and share ideas that shape our cultural era by interviewing global thought-leaders in the arts, sciences and technology. With its ambitious mission and inspired vision, the project is a piece of cultural anthropology of the most precious, sorely needed kind.

Our philosophy is that ideas are NOT selfish, ideas are NOT viruses. Ideas survive because they fit in with the rest of life. Our position is that ideas are energy, and should interconnect and re-connect continuously because by linking ideas together we learn, and new ideas emerge.

Sound familiar? The project is part TED, part BigThink, part — we like to think — Brain Pickings. It’s a celebration of the cross-pollination of ideas and the interconnectedness of everything — something we’re big on around here — based on the central premise that topics and ideas that may appear niche and left-of-center are actually the playground of human genius. Sputnik‘s aim is to give these fringe ideas a platform for expression, so the world can begin to make sense of them.

Our goal is to encourage life-long learning, and we have created this website as a portal of possibilities. A democratic space where people can listen and engage with ideas that inform contemporary history. Ideas that we believe will empower everyone to be a part of today’s cultural conversation.

Currently, the site features about 200 interviews across architecture, quantum physics, neuroscience, video games, biology, economics, digital art, computer science, music and more. These conversations, conducted over more than a decade and previously unavailable to the public, offer a glimpse into humanity’s most progressive, visionary thinking.

The site’s functionality mirrors its conceptual premise, offering a stream-of-consciousness experience that invites you to browse paths, people, themes, and conversations.

The Paths tool is particularly interesting, as it adds a customization layer to your Observatory experience, letting you record, save and share what you found most fascinating — a neat research and publishing tool that acts as a powerful medium for Sputnik’s fundamental message: The dissemination of great ideas.

The biggest challenge of such high-concept projects is that it’s easy to slip into a pattern of merely broadcasting content — however compelling it may be — at people, rather than engaging the viewer-participant with it. And we like how Sputnik doesn’t just aim to build a museum of human thought — a static, linear space — but actually encourages a dynamic, customized, shareable experience that’s part collaboration, part exploration, part cultural curation.

So go ahead, explore Sputnik for yourself. Here’s a good place to start.

via TEDChris: The untweetable

24 JUNE, 2009

Street Art: From All Sides & Five Continents

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The urban anthropology of creativity, or why copyright law is a sad case study in swimming against the cultural current.

In 2008, Beautiful Losers — a documentary about contemporary street art culture from director Aaron Rose — made serious waves at SXSW. This year, the film is finally making its full-blown national screening tour — and we think it’s a must-see.

Based on the eponymous and equally excellent book, the film explores the creative process and cultural influences of iconic artists like Barry McGee, Jo Jackson, Mike Mills, Brain Pickings darling Shepard Fairey, and many more.

The greatest cultural accomplishments in history have never been the result of the brainstorms of marketing men, corporate focus groups, or any homogenized methods; they have always happened organically. More often than not, these manifestations have been the result of a few like-minded people coming together to create something new and original for no other purpose than a common love of doing it.

We think Beautiful Losers is important for two reasons: For one, it’s a genuine piece of cultural anthropology that captures some of the rawest, most powerful creative genius of our time.

But, more importantly, it’s a brilliant testament to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas — you begin to see the influences of various subcultures, from skateboarding to street fashion to graffiti to indie music, on these artists’ original creative output. And this matters, because it’s real-life proof for the power of remix culture — something essential to the ability to harness our collective creativity, yet unfortunately hindered by current copyright law.

For an even deeper perspective on the global, cross-cultural influences in street art, check out Street World: Urban Culture and Art from Five Continents — another excellent book, exploring the emergence of a new global creative culture driven by the advent of the Internet as a cross-pollination platform for wildly diverse subcultures and modes of self expression.

Thanks, Amy!

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